Political Editors / July 12, 2017

Trump Sued Over Blocking Twitter Trolls

The plaintiffs claim that Trump is trampling on their free speech rights by blocking them from his Twitter feed.

The Knight First Amendment Institute of Columbia University has filed a suit against Donald Trump over allegations that he trampled on the free speech rights of individuals he … blocked on Twitter. That’s right — the plaintiffs demand that Trump essentially read their tweets or else he is guilty of breaching their First Amendment rights. It’s terribly ironic that an organization named for the First Amendment has such a flawed understanding of what those rights entail. Honestly, it’s laughably silly.

Jameel Jaffer, head of the Knight Institute, argues that the First Amendment “applies to [Twitter] in the same way it applies to town halls and open school board meetings.” While it may be tempting to conflate Twitter with a public forum such as a town hall or a public street due to its ease for public access, it is a private company and as such has the freedom to create its own rules. And according to Twitter’s rules, a user has the authority, if they so desire, to block another user from commenting on or receiving their tweets. In other words, Trump, by blocking people, has not violated any of Twitter’s self-created guidelines.

The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to engage in freely expressing their thoughts, ideas, beliefs, perspectives, etc. However, the right to freedom of speech is not a right to be heard. It doesn’t obligate anyone to listen. In fact, it would be a violation of the principle of free speech to demand that others are beholden to attend to the speech of another if they desire not to. Obligation of listening is a concept part and parcel with totalitarian states.

In this instance, those who are suing Trump are simply upset that he cut off their ability to directly troll him on his own account. As one of the plaintiffs, a professor from Maryland, wrote, “After the election, I programmed my phone to alert me whenever Trump tweeted. If his tweet was particularly inane, I would reply with my own equally dumb remarks and memes. Since I started doing this, I’ve accumulated a very vocal group of Twitter followers who cheer me on when I troll the president. It takes about five minutes out of my day, and it makes me feel better knowing that this narcissistic, egomaniacal, misogynistic, xenophobic POTUS can read how I feel about him.”

This is not about speech being repressed; rather it is an inane demand by a group of anti-Trumpers that he be forced to listen to their vitriol.

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